Anthem for Doomed Youth
by Wilfrid Owen (1893-1918)
Listen to Anthem for Doomed Youth read by Sean Bean
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
In October 1915, the poet Wilfred Owen enlisted in the Army. He was commissioned into The Manchester Regiment in June 1916, and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in France the following year. He saw his first action was on January 12, 1917, when he and 25 men were ordered to occupy a captured bunker, that came under heavy shelling for three days. In April 1917, during an attack on a German trench near Fayet, he was blown into the air by a shell that landed close to him. He was sent back to Britain for treatment of shell shock. Returning to France in August 1918, he continued to serve with “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” and was recommended for a Military Cross. On November 4, 1918, one week before war ended, Owen was killed.
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